Now that I’m all done climbing the mountains, and have accomplished what I set out to do, what do I do now? How do you come down from such an extreme high and incredible journey? How will I adjust to going back home to a regular life? These are the thoughts that I’ve had, but are also the thoughts of my friends and family. They’re all concerned that I’ll crash and burn I suppose, biting their nails to see what happens. Well guess what, I’ve thought about this, a lot lately. Believe it or not I’m a planner and have thought everything through.
While I feel like I’m in a place where I have forgiven myself for my past, I still have more work to do on self-acceptance. It sounds like the same thing, but to me, it’s not. These are the things that I still struggle with: my body. This trip has been tremendous in helping me in this area. Yes, I did lose a little weight, but that’s not why I feel differently about myself. I haven’t had mirrors around me, I haven’t been body checking, and I haven’t been comparing myself to others while I’ve been out here and it’s brought me to a level of contentment. Yes, I see my photos of me on the mountains, and I might not love what I see, but I let it go quickly. As I go home, I know that this is going to be a much, much tougher situation to avoid. I will have to work really, really hard not to go back to doing those things and keep telling myself that I am blessed with this body. It is a strong, able body that I have a lot to thank for. That’s all I want to think about when I see or think about my body. I don’t want to think about it’s imperfections and how I don’t have model legs.
With all that being said, I know my journey with treatment is not over. I know that when I get back home I will have to go to Melrose Institute and see a dietitian and therapist regularly to keep me on track. I wish I could say that this journey was my ticket to being “cured” from my eating disorder, but if I did say it, I would be lying. I know that recovery is a journey in itself. For me, and for many others who struggle with an eating disorder. I have been eating more food than I typically would to stay active out here, and that’s going to change and I know I’ll need help with regulating my eating. The truth is I’m still scared to death of gaining back any weight I lost on this trip. Even two weeks on vacation in Montana I had a breakdown at the end because I thought I had gained back some weight from all the eating out. I have a battle ahead of me.
I will also start working again. I am so thankful that I get to work with my PCA client, Cassie again. Being a PCA has been the best job I have ever had. Not only does it pay decent, I have a blast every time I’m with her. We shop, take walks, visit coffee shops and see movies. I’ll have to find something else since it’s part time, but at least this won’t be a huge adjustment for me when I get back since it’s so fun!
As far as what to replace hiking and climbing with and the high it gives, I’ll start playing my love, volleyball again! It’s something that I’m constantly working on to get better at, and will give me the motivation to stay active and workout to gain power and a better vertical. If I get a gym membership, it will not be to do cardio machines just to burn calories. That is very dangerous territory. With my recovery, working out can never be about manipulating the shape of my body or burning a certain amount of calories. It destroys me quickly, but thankfully this is an area I have been the strongest with in my recovery.
To continue my spiritual growth, I’ll get involved with Substance Church once again, most likely as a greeter every other weekend. I owe much of where I am today because of Pastor Peter Haas and his church. He’s funny, passionate, intelligent, and always brings it home. The church itself has been the most accepting, connected church I’ve ever been to; “Come as you are” they say. I’ll also find a small group to stay grounded and connected to other believers. I think this is so important, almost more important than attending a church service because it’s a time when you can get real with people.
Last but not least, it’s important that I state that I will not go back to the life I was previously living. What do I mean by that? It means I won’t go back to living my life for someone else. I’m going to continue what this journey started for me and that is to live a life I imagined for myself. I must do what makes me happy because it allows me to be the best me; one that can love others better. So, what does that mean? It means I’ll be saving up every penny until mid winter so I can move to California. It’s always been a dream of mine, so I’m going to do it. Every winter I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it keeps me from finishing anything I start. While I love my family and friends dearly here in Minnesota, they must understand that this change could make me the happiest they’ve ever seen me- consistantly.
If you love someone, let them go free, right? The friends who love me and cherish me will continue to make an effort to see me, and the ones that don’t, well I’m grateful for the time we had together, but their season of friendship will end. I’ll get immediately connected into a church and start the process of developing new friendships all over again, which thankfully, has never intimidated me. I’ll be able to play outside year round! I’ll be more active than I’ve ever been in my entire life trying new sports and playing sand volleyball on the beach by the rolling waves of the ocean. I’m not saying it’s forever, but I am saying it’s what I need to try right now. I’ll start community college out there to gain the credits I need to be accepted into nursing school and I’ll be a nursing assistant until I graduate building experience.
I’ll also itch the scratch I’ve had my whole life and make time and resources to travel the world. I look at the world and I see it as a color crayon box filled with the most beautiful, vibrant colors. Staying in one place your whole life is like only using one color! God created this world for our enjoyment and it has beautiful and magnificent things for me and you to see. Being in the mountains was a taste of it, and I want more. Ever since I was little I used to say that I wanted to see the seven wonders of the world. I would say a lot of people have this passion, but it’s another to act on it, and I will be one of the few who do.
Lastly, I will continue to follow my calling which is to help others struggling with an eating disorder. I’ll get involved in an organization and help any way I can. I’ll do public speeches at high schools, treatment centers, churches, and conferences; whatever I can do, I’ll do. People have been encouraging me to write a book and it’s something I’m going to seriously look into. While being on the news was an amazing opportunity, they cut out anything I said about my faith- which was the foundation of my recovery process and it’s so important to me that others know that. Perhaps my path will inspire others to try God, or reconnect with God which would be the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can’t tell you how much I want to live my life for God!
I knew this trip two week trip with family would be a challenge with food, but I have to admit that I’m struggling. But instead of giving in or falling back, I will try to remind myself of my progress I’ve made towards freedom from this disease.
I used to criticize myself 24/7.
Now I practice self-compassion.
I used to consider myself unworthy of love.
Now I know I am worthy.
My eating disorder used to encompass 95% of my life.
Now my eating disorder only has 5% of my life, maybe even less.
I didn’t want to live.
Now I’m excited for my life.
I’d rather die than tell people I struggled with an eating disorder.
Now I exclaim it as a way to be a voice for others.
I used to think I had to redeem myself for my past mistakes.
Now I know that every mistake is part of my beauty.
I used to think I wasn’t sick enough because I didn’t look anorexic.
Now I know eating disorders are a sickness of the mind and comes in all shapes and sizes.
I used to think that being sexy, successful and smart was my way to acceptance.
Now I’m coming to accept that I am enough as I am.
I thought vulnerability was a weakness.
Now I embrace it.
I thought I was a burden.
Now I know sharing my burdens deepens connections with others.
I used to think I was a bad person.
Now I know I’m an imperfect person that makes mistakes.
I used to numb for days at a time. Alone and isolated I binged until my stomach wanted to burst.
Now I use food to numb very seldom. I sit with the uncomfortable feelings, knowing it’ll pass.
I used to exercise until I’d burn a 1,000 calories.
Now the only exercise I do is for enjoyment. I NEVER count.
I used to panic when I felt full or hungry.
Now I sit with the discomfort, knowing it will pass.
I used to hate my legs.
Now I thank God for them that they are strong and able.
I couldn’t forgive myself for my life choices.
Now I’m starting to see everything has a place and the future is still bright.
I used to be ashamed of my need for medication.
Now I understand that my brain just needs a little help.
I used to think my achievements earned me love.
Now I accept the love that is mine regardless of my accomplishments.
I used to think I was unlovable.
Now I know I am deserving of love.
I used to think I didn’t fit into this world.
Now I know I was made to be different.
I used to think I had to live and be a certain way.
Now I know to follow my heart.
My identity was held in my accomplishments and failures.
Now my true identity lies in being the daughter of the Most High King.
I used to think God couldn’t reach me in my darkness.
He did, and He always can and He always will.
Progress, not perfection.
Yesterday I climbed Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross tallying my total to 9, and 7 of those 9, in 4 days. At first glance, it would seem like I’m kicking some serious butt! I was relaxing in my tent near the Quandary Peak Trailhead and almost falling asleep at 7:30pm. But my thoughts about wanting to plan my next week before I would leave for my bi-annual Bushman family Montana trip wouldn’t let me drift off to dream world. Tomorrow, I decided, would be a rest day. “Maybe I could knock off three more mountains before I leave this Saturday,” I thought.
I had no idea what the weather was going to be like this week, so out of bed I grudgingly arose and luckily only had to drive 5 miles down the winding road until I had 4G (have I mentioned how aweful T-Mobile’s service has been?). Rain, rain and more rain. A little dramatic, but I thought angerly, “No climbing at all this week for me. F*$#, how am I going to get them all done this summer with having to go to Montana for two weeks during prime time climbing?” I started doing the math and I have a total of 47 hiking days in order to climb 55 mountains. I’ve only climbed 5 days! That’s it! I counted them out on the calendar and I would have to do one hike every single day to be done by the beginning of September. The original time frame I would have liked to be done.
I was devastated… “I’ve been telling everyone in one summer”. I was completely deflated, thinking of what everyone had already assumed, “There’s no way she can do that”. “They’re right… another expectation I’m setting for myself that I can’t keep.” The failures just won’t stop coming…
I crawled back into my tent with a sense of defeat. “This can’t be the final outcome. Not yet. It’s too early to say anything. I have to at least try”. I rethought my week and said with determination to myself, “I’ll do five this week. I’ll work around the weather the best I can.” I set my alarm for 2am in the morning. It said there would only be 20% chance rain from 2am until 8am. My new routine will have to be to wake up at 4am and hike, go into town to blog, then move to the next peak that same night and repeat the process until the end of August.
Earlier that day I ran into a lady and her mother at a local coffee shop in Alma. I was telling them about my journey. Somehow whenever I stop and start typing, a conversation arises. I was telling them what I was doing this summer and as our conversation continued, I shared my faith and how I wanted to spend time with God.
Where was my time with God going to fit in with this new routine? I prayed to God to help me not to get caught up in meeting expectations. I begged him, “Please Abba, I want to put you first. Help me stay focused on you. You are my prize. You are greater and more precious than any accomplishment, and I might not get the time like I do now, again. Help me spend time with you”.
2am came and my alarms started going off. Snooze-snooze-snooze- shut off! I decided only half awake, I’m not going to rush this process. When I get done, I get done. I wouldn’t even enjoy this hike. I’d be too afraid of mountain lions and I’d be frozen and possibly stuck in the rain. I will keep my original plan and this will be an off day.
I ended up waking up at 10am! Of course I thought, “Wow, lazy bum”, but immediately gave myself grace. Well you climbed 7 mountains in 4 days! Maybe you needed it! After all, I said I was going to work on being kinder to myself. I reached to my “bedside” and grabbed my “Jesus Calling” book. It shocked and awed me. This is what it said:
“I AM YOUR FATHER-GOD. Listen to Me! Learn what it means to be a child of the everlasting King. Your richest duty is devotion to Me. This duty is such a joyous privilege that it feels like a luxury. You tend to feel guilty about pushing back the boundaries of your life to make space for time alone with Me. The world is waiting to squeeze you into its mold and to crowd out time devoted to Me. The ways of the world have also warped your conscience, which punishes you for doing the very thing that pleases Me most: seeking My Face. Listen to Me above the clamor of voices trying to distract you. Ask for My Spirit to calm your mind, for He and I work in perfect harmony. Be still and attentive in My Presence. You are on holy ground.”
Romans 8:15-16; Exodus 3:5
I knew I had come to the right decision today to slow down. I have faith that one way or another, it will happen, but when it does, it will be for the glory of God in His perfect timing. Today, was a beautiful day of letting go and of surrender, and it felt so good to do so!!
Today was the day! The day I said farewell to Forest Lake, MN and hello to the road! Here I come Colorado!! Woohoo!!! Yes, it’s starting to hit me what is about to take place in my life. I ended up half way there in Omaha, Nebraska. Tonight I sleep in a cozy hotel bedroom. No camping, yet.
I learned a couple of valuable lessons today.
1) Do not go mountain biking on a wet trail- it’s for your own good! After seven and a half hours of driving I thought I’d get my body moving. What better way then on my mountain bike in new territory? I am an optimist to a fault. It was wet, my wheels were slipping and mud was flying everywhere, not to mention mosquitoes in Nebraska are just as nasty if not nastier. I thought, “Oh, psht, it’ll get better!” WRONG. After a half hour of getting eaten alive and nearly wrestling my bike to the muddy ground a half dozen times I found the quickest route to the road through the damp grass and road back on nice, dry cement. It must have given at least a couple drivers an entertaining moment to see this mud monster emerge from the swampy forest.
2) Attractive Nebraskan men have the balls to pass out their number to a pretty girl (sorry Minnesota men!) I managed to mess up trying to pay for a hose to rinse my bike off so I had to run into the gas station. It turns out what I thought would be a hose was a soapy brush. In this embarrassing moment, an attractive man came up to me and handed me a piece of paper with his number on it! I tried to make a joke of what I was trying to accomplish, but I think I scared him off! Needless to say, I was flattered being absolutely covered in mud. And no I haven’t texted or called him… what’s the point? Maybe I should at least tell him to keep up the good work…
While these are good insights for the day, my main purpose for this trip was to connect with God on a deeper level and in a more tangible way. I guess in all my planning, I forgot to plan how I was going to make this happen. I know this connection is the one and only real way to rid myself of this eating disorder and find self acceptance and peace. It’s different for everyone, but as for me, therapy and what they taught me at Center for Discovery and Melrose, can only go so far. Tonight I will end my night with prayer; for safe passage, for contentment.
Turning 30. Single. Broke. Eating Disorder. Chronic Depression. Need I go on? My life would seem to be wreck, an absolute mess. Would it puzzle you if I said I was actually hopeful? Inspired? Determined? Encouraged?
My reason for hope is found in my very near future. In two months, I will be taking a solo trip to Colorado to climb all 55 fourteeners! — You might be thinking, “What the heck are those?” They’re mountains in Colorado that are all above 14,000 feet. Think of the latest “Wild” or the classic “Into the Wild” movies and you’ ll catch my drift of what’s to come. Over 3,000 men and women have climbed all 54 infamous mountains. I’m just not sure how many have been women… and of those brave women, have climbed all of them by themselves… Welcome to a new chapter of my life, and I’m taking you with me.
In this chapter I’m free to be broken, free to be weak, free to lose, free to be no one, free to be ordinary and free, to fail. Doesn’t that sound amazing?! You see, in the very recent past, these things listed in my opening paragraph gave me reason to loath myself and hold myself imprisoned in a cage of shame and disgust and to an impossible climb of self-redemption. Every good circumstance brought me temporary happiness, while every bad circumstance, whether self-inflicted or not, knocked me down so far I’d be out for days or months.
Want to find true happiness, regardless of status or circumstance? Now, I’m not saying that I’ve arrived, but I do think I’m personally starting to absorb what it means to accept Christ’s death for our sins and want to dive into this deeper on my journey through the mountains. I’m starting to realize just how many “layers of yuck” I’ve been carrying around because I won’t accept forgiveness for my failures and sins. I know, it sounds cliche and if you’ve grown up a Christian your entire life like I have, you probably can relate to hearing a verse or a message a million times and it still not resonate with you- but someday, it’ll hit you differently, and you’ll know it’s God telling you to move.
Here’s another one you’ve probably heard, “God has you exactly where you’re supposed to be” (Act 17:26). It’s hard to hold onto that thought when it feels like your life has been a disaster, but right now I’m grateful that I have some time to really explore my past hurts. Why do something so painful? Because not dealing with it has left me a depressed, self-loathing individual who has never felt like she was enough.
As stated above, I am one of 350 million people globally that suffer from depression. It started at age nineteen when I was cut from my college volleyball team. Accompanying my depression at age twenty-three, has been my eating disorder better known as ED. I have had bulimia for six and half years. I still can’t even believe that it’s part of my story; I would have never predicted this. I’ve been trying to rid this insanity for a year and eleven months now and have been in 3 different treatment facilities. I’m currently receiving treatment in Minnesota and will remain in partial and eventually outpatient treatment until my departure to Colorado.
Even though my story is at a crossroads where my life doesn’t seem at all worked out, the great news is that God can use all our hurts and failures for good (Romans 8:28). That is the core purpose of this blog! I am determined to find acceptance, forgiveness and love for myself. The worth of myself will no longer stand in my beauty, my status or my accomplishments. It will stand in the beauty of being a princess of the Most High and living out who God made me to be! A strong, adventurous, free spirited woman with an enormous heart for those who are hurting.
My prayer is that my hurts, that are not uncommon (1 Corinthians 10:13), will help someone else (maybe you) to live their life more fully; as Christ promises us a full and happy life (John 10:10). I pray that if you have struggled with accepting who you are inside and out; that you will find hope, inspiration, determination and encouragement to live out who God has created you to be!